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All About Acute Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is a respiratory infection that typically affects the bronchi, which are the two tubes that allow air to travel from your mouth to your lungs. Your child may experience this condition if they have an upper respiratory tract infection (URI) which causes inflammation and irritation in your airways. This means that they are producing more mucus than usual to protect themselves from irritation.

Acute bronchitis generally lasts for a short time – most people get over the worst of it in a few days, although the cough can linger for weeks. This condition is distinct from chronic bronchitis, which is caused by constant irritation such as that caused by smoking.

The symptoms of acute bronchitis include:

  • coughing (often worse during the night and can last for up to three weeks)
  • chest discomfort
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • hoarseness/loss of voice
  • wheezing

While bronchitis caused by a bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics, many cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses and cannot be treated with antibiotics.  In some situations, people develop complications from bronchitis, such as pneumonia, which may require hospitalization.

How to Avoid Acute Bronchitis

One of the best ways to avoid your child getting this condition is by keeping up with the latest CDC recommendations for Covid vaccination and flu shots. This will help them avoid getting a URI in the first place. But if they do begin to come down with bronchitis, be sure to seek treatment for your child right away.

Bronchitis and Covid-19

Bronchitis is a secondary infection – meaning it usually follows an upper respiratory infection caused by a virus (such as influenza, RSV, or a coronavirus). Bronchitis will not cause you to get Covid, but since Covid is a viral respiratory illness, it can cause bronchitis. Getting bronchitis following a Covid infection will increase your child’s chances of developing complications that could require medical care.

If your child has Covid symptoms, please consult with their doctor and consider a Covid test. If they develop symptoms of bronchitis following a Covid diagnosis, you should monitor for the symptoms listed above and begin treatment for bronchitis.

How to Treat Acute Bronchitis

Usually, the infection will go away on its own. To help ease the symptoms, you should make sure your child:

  • Gets lots of rest
  • Stays hydrated (make sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol)
  • Uses over-the-counter pain relievers and cough medicine as needed
  • Has a humidifier when they sleep or have them sit in a steamy bathroom

When to See a Doctor

Call your child’s doctor if they:

  • Have a cough that:
    • Brings up blood or mucus that thickens or darkens
    • Keeps them awake at night
    • Lasts more than 3 weeks
    • Causes chest pain
    • Has a barking sound and makes it hard to speak
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Have foul-tasting fluid in your mouth
  • Have a fever over 100.4 F
  • Experience wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Have unexplained weight loss

If your child has symptoms of bronchitis or COVID-19, head to PedsNow for convenient testing and treatment. We’re here to care for you.